|Nguyễn Văn Tùng (top, right), celebrates his Van Basten-esque volley that gave Việt Nam the lead once more. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Đông|
BUNYODKOR — An all-new, all-different Việt Nam Under-23 side played their first match in Group C of the AFC U23 Asian Cup against archrivals Thailand on Thursday.
Although battered with food poisoning issues affecting key players Nguyễn Thanh Bình and Lý Công Hoàng Anh, the Young Golden Star Warriors managed to surprise Thailand by leading the game twice through Tuấn Tài and Văn Tùng, before being agonisingly held to a draw in added time.
New manager Gong Oh-kyun utilised his short preparation time to devise a totally modern style of play for Việt Nam.
A Liverpool-esque gegenpressing and attacking system, with a 4-3-3 formation was chosen by the South Korean, rather than his predecessor Park Hang-seo's counterattacking style, more akin to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United.
Việt Nam started to press high right off the bat, and just 17 seconds in, Jonathan Khemdee was forced into a mistake, when his pass went straight to Phan Tuấn Tài.
From twenty-seven metres, the young left-back struck a powerful shot that rebounded off Khemdee and went into Kiaditiphon Udom's net.
Thailand then lost control of the match entirely, and their coach Worrawoot Srimaka made two changes to the squad after just 28 minutes bringing on Ben Davis and Wanchat Choosong, pushing Kritsada Kaman to play higher as a defensive midfielder.
The changes worked wonders for Changsuek, as Davies' shot in the 34th minute went pass Vietnamese defenders and made Văn Toản fumble. The ball bounced off the ground after the Hải Phòng goalkeeper misjudged the flight path, and freakishly went into the back of the net.
Văn Toản also suffered from an injury to his fingers while making the save and was replaced by Quan Văn Chuẩn later on.
With the equaliser in hand, Thailand pushed forward for the lead, Ekanit Panya and Nicholas Mickelson went close but could not find the target and the first half ended 1-1.
In the second half, as Thailand play better and better, Việt Nam's stamina started to falter. Khuất Văn Khang, Trần Danh Trung and Nguyễn Văn Trường went down due to injuries and Việt Nam were left with no subs since the 64th minute.
However, it was the men in red that found the lead ten minutes later. Tuấn Tài was again the hero for Việt Nam when his cross found Nguyễn Văn Tùng. The Hà Nội FC striker volleyed the ball thunderously, and Kiaditiphon could not do anything but watch it go into his net.
Việt Nam could have doubled their lead when Đình Lâm was through on goal. He chose not to pass it to his teammate in a more favourable position, but instead shot the ball right at the keeper.
And the misses bit back in the second minute of injury time. From a left-wing cross, young Thailand star Suphanat Muenta sneaked behind Duy Cương and headed the ball into Văn Chuẩn's net, securing Thailand's first point in Group C.
With this result, Việt Nam and Thailand are tied for second in their Group. Group leaders South Korea destroyed Malaysia 4-1 to go top.
Việt Nam will face South Korea on Sunday, while Thailand play Malaysia. Both must win for a brighter chance to get through the group stage. — VNS